Bill Johnson, From Bethel Church in Redding CA, has some intense reflections on being a courageous disciple this week. His message, Crazy Courage, is a sequel to Kris Vallotton’s message last week on applying heaven’s power to our earthly service. Bethel is an awesome faith community. They’re actually walking the discipleship road in earnest.
Not that other communities aren’t; my own community has been ramping up for two years now in that same direction. We’ve been blessed with a lead pastor who understands where Jesus is calling us as a community, and is leading us all in that direction. I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken to walk the talk!
But Bill and the Bethel community are way out in front of the real-discipleship curve, and they’ve been walking that road in integrity and faithfulness for decades, even as other pastors and communities have fallen by the roadside. I really admire the believers at Bethel for their faithfulness and their risk-it-all courage.
Risk-it-all courage is more than a gift. Even if the will and raw talent is the Lord’s gift, it takes years to work out the nuances of that kind of courage. At least it’s been years for me. I remember in the first grade, kneeling down on the wooden floor in my catholic school classroom and praying for the grace to “leave everything and follow” Jesus. Years later, in college, I met my first grade teacher, Sister Gianetta, who told me then that she thought I had been a very strange child! I can see how she might have had some issues.
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
That gospel passage has haunted me most of my life. I have always believed that Jesus was really asking that of me and everyone else, despite pastors’ and other leaders’ insistence that the call to be a disciple, in the way Jesus meant it, had expired after the first century.
But as a kid, I had no idea how to get there. First of all, as a Catholic, I knew Jesus was present in the Eucharist, but my church kept Him locked up in the Tabernacle, (their version of the Old-Testament Holy of Holies,) except for holy days and Sundays. So I could go visit Him, but how was I ever going to follow Him anywhere!?
OK, so once I got that cleared up, and understood that Jesus was present in me and every other believer, and that no one could keep Him boxed up, being courageous got easier. I wasn’t swimming upstream alone! Then I looked around and saw that I wasn’t in the River alone either–lots of other ordinary believers were risking everything to follow Him too!
Now I’m sure that’s where we *all* belong–up to our necks in the River of God, flowing with Him from Glory to Glory, as we serve, love, heal, restore, and deliver all of those folks who timidly, gingerly, walk along the Water’s edge, struggling to find the courage to jump in!
Father, give *all* your people the Courage to plunge headlong into the River, and help us risk everything to be a real disciple!
Then Jesus said to all the people: If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself or waste your life? (Luke 9:23-25)
The angel also showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, and coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing down the middle of the city’s street. On each side of the river was the tree of life, which bears fruit twelve times a year, once each month; and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)